Manitoba budget will include $50M to tackle pandemic-related surgery backlog: premier

·2 min read

WINNIPEG — Manitoba is earmarking $50 million to help reduce wait times for surgeries delayed due to COVID-19.

Premier Brian Pallister says thousands of surgeries have been postponed during the pandemic and the number continues to grow.

The money is to help with the backlog of hip, knee and cataract procedures.

Manitoba was largely spared from high rates of COVID-19 infections during the first wave last spring.

But hospitalizations skyrocketed in the fall, and surgeries and procedures were cancelled to create more room for COVID-19 patients.

Pallister says the funding may not wipe out the entire backlog, but he hopes it will make a good dent.

“It’s going to help to get better care sooner to Manitobans,” the premier said Wednesday.

Doctors Manitoba, which represents physicians, said the funding will help tackle surgical and diagnostic wait-lists.

“This is a very good start towards catching up on the thousands of patients who have had to wait for their procedure because of this pandemic,” the organization said in a statement.

Health officials reported one more death and 70 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. Screening identified 17 more cases of variants of concern.

There were 146 people hospitalized due to the infection, and 28 were in intensive care.

Wednesday marked the second announcement this week from the Progressive Conservative government revealing details of the provincial budget to be released next Wednesday.

Finance Minister Scott Fielding said Tuesday the projected deficity for the 2021-22 fiscal year is just under $1.6 billion. Most will be linked to COVID-19 relief programs, he said.

When asked about recent polling that found the Opposition New Democrats more popular than the Tories, Pallister said he will continue to fight COVID-19 and work with businesses on economic recovery to reassure supporters.

“There’s no election. There’s only a pandemic.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2021.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press